Sports betting in Kansas for 2022 is on life support.
A key House committee was slated to debate and pass House Bill 2740 on Tuesday. But after nearly an hour of contentious debate on several issues, the committee abruptly adjourned.
They are not scheduled to meet again before the Kansas legislature ends in May.
“I am surprised. We are adjourned,” state Rep. John Barker, chairman of the House State and Federal Affairs Committee, said bruskly to end the hearing.
The committee could be called back into session at the discretion of the chair, or the bill could be added to a conference committee report before both chambers. But whatever happens needs to be completed by May 20, the final day of the 2022 session.
Sports Betting Divides Lawmakers
Similar legislation passed the Senate last year. The Kansas legislature operates on a biennium schedule, meaning legislation passed in 2021 in one chamber can be considered this year in the other chamber.
While the early part of the hearing focused on minor amendments, lawmakers spent a great deal of time debating a proposal by state Rep. Francis Awerkamp. His amendment would have put sports betting directly under the control of the state lottery.
“We have a choice who gets the money. If we let the casinos control [the state] gets a small percentage. If we have the lottery, we get all of it,” he said during the hearing.
In a phone interview after the hearing Awerkamp explained under Kansas state law, all gambling must be authorized by the lottery, but casinos are able to negotiate contracts on their own.
This is where his amendment comes in. It would have stipulated the lottery negotiate and administer sports betting independent of the casinos. This would ensure the state gets paid, and not the casinos.
Under the existing legislation, the state is estimated to collect $6-$10 million in revenue, he said. While sports betting would still be under the control of the lottery, it would be administered by the casinos, which is what Awerkamp objects to.
If passed, Awerkamp estimated his amendment would have upped this figure to $40-$50 million.
But Barker said the amendment would mean the bill was DOA.
“If this amendment [is passed], we will not have sports betting,” he said, noting casinos, business, and tribal interests are all supportive of the bill as written. They oppose giving the state control.
The amendment failed 9-12.
Shortly afterward, the committee took up an amendment related to iGaming. It also failed. At this point, Barker shut the hearing down without notice.
Sports Betting Supporters Remain Optimistic
“Sit tight, guys, we’ll get this out this year. Communication and teamwork are key, and sometimes communications break down. We can fix this; I’m sure of it. #ksleg,” state Rep. Stephanie Clayton tweeted after the hearing was over.
Clayton has been an outspoken proponent of the bill and sports betting expansion in the state.
“Don’t despair. I’m sure something will work out,” she tweeted again Tuesday afternoon.